Impressions of a casual gamer.
As I mentioned before in my musings on Allods Online, time is not my friend and dedicating myself to a single MMO that I can spend hours and hours playing is just not possible. So, for this reason, paying a monthly fee for an MMO just seems pointless, especially if I only have time to play for a couple of hours in a given month. For this reason, I am taking a look at the free-to-play MMOs that are cropping up.
Of course, there have been free MMOs around for a long time, but there has always been a very obvious distinction between the free ones and the premium ones. This line between the two has recently become more and more blurred, as new premium quality MMOs hit the market using the microtransaction method of funding themselves. Players are allowed to play for free, but can, if they choose, pay for additional content or game improving items.
Dungeons and Dragons Online has made a great success of this metthod in the US (altough it remains monthly subscription based in the UK) and it has just recently been announced that Lord of the Rings Online will also be moving to a free-to-play pricing model, both in the US and Europe.
But, right here and now, it is time for me to discuss my experience in Taborea.
Runes of Magic has now been running for a little over a year, and what a year it has been. I was lucky enough to be part of the beta testing for RoM, but had not really paid it much attention between the official launch and now. The beta had quite a number of issues, as one would expect, but even then it was obvious that RoM was going to be something special.
So, launching back into the world of Taborea after around a year brought me face to face with progress. This is perhaps one of RoM’s greatest strengths, the sheer number of updates and additional content that has been, and is still being, added. We are not only talking about small, incremental updates. Since the launch in March 2009, RoM has actually had two large expansion style updates, known as chapters. The most recent, Chapter 3: The Elder Kingdoms, went live in May and offered, amongst other things, a new area of the world to explore, a raising of the level cap to 60 and more than 100 new quests.
Anyway, back to the basics. The one thing that struck me more than anything during the beta and still seems obvious to me now, is the similarity between RoM and WoW. These is very little difference between the two. I say that, but please bear in mind that I have not played excessive amounts of WoW and have not even looked at it in at least a couple of years. As far as I know, WoW could have changed beyond recognition.
Runes of Magic is so very much like World of Warcraft. But hey, if you are going to launch a successful MMO, why not base it on the most successful MMO of all time? RoM will, therefore, be easily picked up and played by anyone who has spent time in Blizzards world.
There are two playable races at the moment and eight classes, although some classes are race specific. With the games dual class system in place, this gives quite a selection of different playable classes to choose from.
Anyone who has played an MMO in the past should easily be able to pick up and play RoM. The control system is basic and straight forward, with the standard mouse and keyboard controls. Attacking is a simple matter of just clicking on an enemy and then clicking again to initiate combat. The player will, over time, build up an arsenal of special attacks and abilities which can be assigned to the bar at the bottom of the screen. These abilities can be activated by pressing the chosen box, or a hotkey should they be assigned, and then clicking the target.
There are more than 2,400 quests currently available in RoM, so there really is plenty to do. Quests are generally picked up by talking with an NPC and then accepting the quest. But this is an MMO and, as such, playing with buddies, or complete strangers, is expected. There are missions that need to be played out in groups laced throughout the game. These epic quests offer equally epic rewards to the player that team up and take them on.
As I have pointed out, I have not played WoW in quite a time, but there appears to be some interesting inclusions in RoM that may actually improve upon those offered by WoW. For example, I know that mounts were added to Wow, but in Runes of Magic these mounts are available to the player from the very beginning, making the traversing of Taborea just a little less tedious. The player can even purchase a dwelling in RoM, adding an extra layer to the customisation of a players character.
One thing that RoM does very well, is the Guild system. Joining a Guild in RoM is not just about wearing a fancy cape or making it easier to find your buddies before attempting a party based dungeon. There are inter-guild battles to join in with and even siege battles with guilds attempting to take over each others castle. This type of PvP gameplay is highly entertaining and offers a different way of enjoying this game.
But there are so many ways to enjoy Runes of Magic. Beyond the initial quests designed for the single player, and the team quests and the Guild fun, there are mini games scattered around and the whole social aspect to these type of games. There are special event quests offered regularly to give some variety, along with some rare rewards that are offered for completion. There are pets to raise and even, in celebration of the World Cup, a new football pet on offer from the store.
Which brings me to another unique point for RoM. The store uses Diamonds as its currency, which the player can purchase using real world cash. With these Diamonds the player has the chance to buy various items that make the game a little easier, allow them to progress a little quicker, or even offer a way of making their character more unique, such as limited edition mounts etc. This is all pretty standard stuff. But RoM offers two ways in which the store system becomes better than most.
Firstly, every time that the player spends Diamonds in the store, they also receive a certain amount of Rubies. These can be spent in another store that offers items that cannot be purchased anywhere else. Most interestingly though, the player can actually trade in game items at the auction house for Diamonds, allowing them to obtain this currency without having to part with a single penny of their hard-earned, real-world cash. This means that the advantages on offer to players with a hefty bank account are not exclusive and can be enjoyed by anyone.
Runes of Magic is only just over a year old, but already seems to have come so far. At its most simple form, RoM is a viable alternative to World of Warcraft. Ok, it may not have all of the spit and polish that can be found in the Blizzard phenomenon, but it offers as much, if not more, content. If this much has been achieved in a year, imagine how amazing this world will become after a couple more years.
So, as a casual MMO player, does Runes of Magic rock my world? Well, it certainly ticks all of the boxes. It has everything that a gamer could want from an MMO, and more besides. But maybe that is the problem, from my point of view. Like the majority of subscription for MMOs, what the player gets out of RoM is directly linked to how much time that they put in. As such, playing only for an hour or so each week will not really get me anywhere. If time were not an issue, RoM would be the game that I would play, regardless of it being free-to-play or subscription based. This is definitely one for the true MMO players. For the casual, maybe it is just too big?